Welcome back my friends. You have sent your manuscript and supporting materials off to the agents you selected as most likely targets. Now, the burning question you want to know is: how long do I have to wait for a response?

Bear with me here, because there is good and bad. I believe in eating your vegetables before dessert, so first the bad: most agents these days only respond if they want your full manuscript, most will not even send a rejection letter. You. May. NEVER. Know. 

The second bit of bad news is that for the agents around that don’t have websites and deal only with printed copies via the post, the average turnaround time is twelve weeks. That’s three months. There is no real data on email submissions, but a good rule of thumb is that if you receive no positive word in two weeks, go ahead and mail more agents.

Now for the good news that should actually inspire equal amounts of hope and terror: response times can be as little as five minutes for email submissions. One caveat: many have auto-response emails to say they got your submission, don’t get excited on this.

So where’s the terror? Did you read that? FIVE minutes. What can they read in five minutes?

They can:

- Read the query

- Skim the synopsis

- Quickly google the submitter

Terrifying because you wrote/created the query, synopsis, and your author platform without understanding the exact importance. Does the anal retentive nature of past lessons make sense now? THESE ARE THE THREE THINGS YOU WILL BE SOLELY JUDGED ON AT FIRST PASS: QUERY, SYNOPSIS, AUTHOR PLATFORM.

People judge books by their covers, it’s a fact of life. It sucks, but we’re none of us going to change it overnight. That is why those things needed to be polished.

Now, you need to give this first batch a minimum of two weeks. Let’s just say all parties are operating fully in the 21st century and it is done via email.

You emailed your first list of agents. Wait two weeks, email the second, another two weeks, mail the third. Then sit and wait. If you hear nothing in twelve weeks from the date you sent your first batch, it’s time to start over again. Simply cultivate a new list and begin anew (we’ll cover that in the lesson after the next).

Now, what can you do while you wait? Remember, you’re only waiting for them to reply and request the full manuscript. This is not selling your book. First you send the manuscript in full to the agent. They may have you edit. They may send you to a professional editor that charges. Then they will try to sell your book, going through a similar process of waiting for acceptance or rejection from publishers. We’ll cover that in future lessons.

For now, you have two weeks of anxiety to kill. First up: go to your email. Create a filter so any emails with the domain name of the agent’s website go into your inbox. If you have your spam auto-delete itself turn this off. If the agent or their assistant uses gmail and sends an attachment, it may go to spam.

Now, swear to whatever god you worship (try not to go for the chaos ones, Loki and Set won’t help you much here) that you will only check for a response three times a day, max: when you wake, on your lunch break, and before the end of the business day.

Next, come up with a plan for the following steps. Here is where killing time can be a productive friend. First off, KEEP WRITING as you go along with the steps. You’ve been in editing mode for so long it’s time to get back. Please, go write your new outline/synopsis for your next book, the summary, and the character bios over the next two weeks. Start writing if you want, but let’s also do some other things.

STEP ONE: GARNER A LARGER AUDIENCE

You’ll want to sharpen your author platform. Go nuts adding friends. On FB and G+ add as many people as you can, in accordance with their policies. Join groups. Get as wide an audience as you can so that when you have actual news there are people who will listen. 

Additionally if you do any writing on a free site, it’s time to slow or stop so much free writing. You’re transitioning from hobbyist to professional, and remember no one should do what they’re good at for free. So finish up or plan to finish existing projects, but go ahead and enter contests. That will garner new readers and keep you in the mind of existing readers. That’s officially step one to productive polishing while waiting on agent responses: getting you into the consciousness of more people.

STEP TWO: HAVE SOMETHING INTERESTING TO SAY

Next, make sure your content is solid. Keep a blog going actively that’s interesting. Try not to be too esoteric, and if you’re writing on a common subject, say, how to write a book, know many sites cover that. Look at them, see how they’re set up. For example, many are set up so you have to search for a term, designed to be googled at random. So I set up my blog to be ordered, cover the full process, as an example. Either give the people something new or a new approach.

Focus on one or two subjects in particular, and make sure your metadata has easily searchable terms (what copywriters call white hat SEO, in simpler terms if your blog is on origami, include in your metadata terms that are very specific such as “basic origami” “how to do origami” and so on).

Make sure that your social media posts not only promote your blog directly, but promote it indirectly. Post awesome pictures of origami, jokes or videos on origami, things related to your blog. Cultivate a following, and don’t be afraid to change it up by seeing what people are more likely to respond to.

STEP THREE: REACH OUT TO THE COMMUNITY

Are you a member of a writing group? Yes? Good. No? It’s time to join. DO IT. No excuses. Online or in person, JOIN. Do that, and come back.

All right, we’re all members of writing groups now, yes? All right. It’s time to get involved. Find out who else is at the same place as you (waiting on the first agent response) or further along the process. Talk with them, trade tips, tricks, ideas, and offer one another support. This is a tough time and we all need help with it, and we can all offer help with it.

Next, join a critique group. If there isn’t one, start one. Aim for a group at the same place. Just started your second book? Join one for people on fresh starts. Done, or in progress on the second? Join a group where everyone is in the same place, or start one.

I’m going to talk brass tacks here, and it may sound borderline sociopath, but this is just how the world works: you want something from this group. They want something from you. This will be the basis for any friendships that result.

It helps every published author to have friends who are also published authors. So try to find serious groups where people are not only driven to publish, but have a chance at success (have followed the same steps, are determined, and have a good product).

Many books have been published that are three to four novellas, the project created by three or four friends. Many readers have bought them for one author and discovered new favorites. Many a reader has taken a chance on a new book or series because of a blurb on the cover from an author they like. This is what you want.

Of course, these are to be friends. You have to have common interests and get along, and actually like each other. But it’s time to be an adult. Never forget, keep in the back of your mind, that ultimately you all can help one another. And always be willing to be the more successful author who starts projects or writes blurbs for others. Give what you can, take what you deserve.

Now, this should take two weeks of solid work, or maybe the full six weeks of this first round of submissions. If it takes two, just send out the next volley and repeat, focusing more and more each time.

Next lesson we’ll deal with the bad and ugly. If an agent wants your manuscript, that’s the good, just send it! There’s another wait, and we’ll cover that, but next lesson you’ll learn how to constructively use negative feedback, or none at all. Good luck!